Few NFL players are able to match elite on-field skills with a savvy sense of business that allows them to maximize their career earnings.
Darrelle Revis was one of those few. Whether it was his 15 minutes of fame in Tampa Bay, his Super Bowl season in New England, or his second stint (read: robbery) with the New York Jets, the money always followed Revis wherever he played.
Of course, that money was completely worth it when Revis was at the peak of his powers.
Revis officially retired on Wednesday after an 11-year career spent with four different teams:
As Revis says goodbye to the game of football in a diminished state, it’s worthwhile to remember just how transcendent he was at the pinnacle of his powers.
Peak Darrelle Revis was one of the best corners we’ve seen
When Revis burst onto the scene in 2009, he had a season for the ages.
A lot of cornerbacks have receiver-like ball skills. A lot of cornerbacks have elite athletic measurements. A lot of cornerbacks understand the game on a level that allows them to know what offenses are going to throw at them.
There are only a handful that able to combine all three; Darrelle Revis was certainly one of them.
In Revis’ 2009 season, he faced some of the best receivers the game has ever had to offer and he didn’t back down.
For targets thrown into Revis’ coverage for the 2009 season:
- Randy Moss (2 games): 9 catches, 58 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
- Terrell Owens (2 games): 6 catches, 54 yards, 1 interception
- Andre Johnson: 4 catches, 35 yards
- Marques Colston: 2 catches, 33 yards
- Steve Smith: 1 catch, 5 yards, 2 interceptions
- Roddy White: 2 catches, 16 yards
- Reggie Wayne: 3 catches, 33 yards
- Chad Ochocinco: Not a damn thing
Before Revis wound up as a shell of him former self in his second stint with the Jets and his brief stay in Kansas City in 2017, it was a joy watching his game evolve through the years.
When he first came into the league in 2007, he played for one of the most difficult defenses to play in. Rex Ryan’s blitz-heavy defense required his corners to strap up long enough in man coverage so his extravagant blitzes could get home and create disruption.
Revis was up to the challenge and it created a beautifully chaotic relationship between the defensive backs, the front seven, and the quarterbacks lying in the dirt or throwing interceptions.
Blitzes that routinely combine linebackers and safeties to get home are extremely difficult to execute. That’s part of what made Revis time with the Jets so special.
They were able to consistently play with a razor-thin margin for error because they had the horses at cornerback in Revis and Antonio Cromartie.
(Don’t forget that 2009 Darrelle Revis gave us an all-time Jake Delhomme blooper.)
The crossroads of mental ascension and (slight) physical decline
As Revis’ game began to age, he wasn’t the physically dominant player that he was at his peak, but the mental aspect of his game still allowed him to be an elite defender. He became a more conservative defender, saving his physical bursts for the perfect timing.
When Revis was with the Patriots, he was able to bait quarterbacks into making questionable throws before exploding with his recovery speed towards the catch point.
The play that defined Revis’ transition into an older player was his interception against Andrew Luck in the 2015 AFC Championship Game.
While jamming Donte Moncrief, Revis has his eyes on the quarterback the entire way. He knows T.Y. Hilton is releasing to the flat and he knows the ball will come that way if Hilton initially seems open.
As soon as the ball is released, Revis showed off the recovery speed that made his time with the Patriots so spectacular to watch.
One of the more underrated facets of Revis’ game was his physicality as a tackler. He was known for being one of the best cover corners in the history of the game, but when it was time to bring the pain, he brought it.
Tampa Bay gave him a lot of opportunities for big hits and game changing plays as he ingratiated himself into their zone heavy scheme. This resulted in him playing closer to the line of scrimmage and closer to the action.
Even though he only spent only one season with the Buccaneers, he was still able to create memorable moments. Of course, his greatest glory was winning Super Bowl XLIX with the Patriots after the Bucs released him one year into a six-year deal.
We all know how Revis’ career fared after his time in New England, but even when he was struggling he became something that most of us aspire to be: grossly overpaid. Even when he was losing, he was still winning.
It’s incredibly hard to be a dominant cornerback with the severe penalties that defensive backs face for minute fouls. That never slowed Revis at his peak down. He was elite in every area of the game that cornerbacks need to excel in, including the confidence to bet on himself and his abilities.
It’s always bittersweet to see a champion and savant of the craft walk away, but today we remember fondly what he brought to the table.
Salute to The Mercenary — we’ll catch him in Canton, Ohio six years from now.